7 Advertising Campaigns that Inspired the Pixels
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7 Advertising Campaigns that Inspired the Pixels

7 Advertising Campaigns that Inspired the Pixels

In the twenty-first century world, marketing campaigns are constantly drip fed to consumers.

Whether it’s via a billboard on the way to work, or on a big cinema screen before a film starts, brands are pushing millions into creating adverts that stand out in the mind of their target audience.

To celebrate all things advertising campaigns, we’ve decided to explore the ad campaigns that have inspired the Pixels. From The National Trust to McVitie's, there are some incredible campaigns on our list that have carved out their own special places in advertising history.


Sian - Digital Marketing Manager  

Brand: The National Trust


Period: Summer 2015

Cost: £1.4 million

Advertising drivers: TV, Cinema, VoD, Social Media, Content and Social Media.

Results: £396,000 in direct donations and a  23% year on year increase in National Trust memberships. 84% positive sentiment score via social.


“Captivating and memorable with remarkable results, this campaign shows the strength of audience-led campaigns which don’t feel like marketing at all, which for me, is the true measure of a successful advertising campaign.”

Back in 2015, our connection to the UK coastline was at an all-time low - which was a big issue for the National Trust as they rely solely on public donations to care for our coastline.

It was the 50th anniversary of the Trust’s coastal appeal, and a monumental fundraising push was executed to reconnect the people of the UK with the charity’s coastal cause.

The National Trust reframed the message from ‘protecting 775 miles of coastline’, to ‘protecting 775 miles of memories’, and crowdsourced a love poem to the coast with a little help from the Bard of Salford, poet Dr John Cooper Clarke, who performed the nation’s crowd-sourced memories via this video.

Instead of telling the audience why the coast and coastal protection was important, the idea was for the people explain through memories and personal stories why the coast is precious.

"Dishevelled shells and shoveled sand, architecture all unplanned," was just one of musings celebrating the beauty and idiosyncrasies of the UK seaside, which features captivating imagery of Britain's coastline too.

The £1.4m summer-long fully-integrated campaign spanned TV, cinema, video-on-demand, social media and PR and used paid, earned & owned media. This was also the first campaign of its kind for the National Trust.

The Trust raised awareness of, affinity with and advocacy about National Trust’s coastal conservation work. They raised £396,000 in direct donations and contributed to a 23% year on year increase in National Trust memberships. The campaign also had an 84% positive sentiment rate via social interactions.


Ryan - Creative Designer

Brand: Guinness

Campaign: The Surfer

Period: 1998

Cost: Never revealed

Advertising drivers: Television

Results: Won multiple awards. Was voted as the number 1 greatest advert of all time in 2001.


“My favourite aspect of advertising is being able to take a mundane concept and apply that same idea to something extraordinary to create an emotional response from its audience."

Guinness executed this brilliantly by taking the idea of waiting in order to pour the perfect pint and juxtapositioned that with a surfer waiting for that perfect wave. The result was a brilliant piece of cinematography from the authenticity of the surfer in the film (a real surfer spotted on the beach when the directors were out looking for places to shoot) to the film being shot in black and white to replicate a pint of the black stuff.”

Launched in 1999 by Diego, Guinness’ Surfer advert is one of the most popular ones the brand has ever unveiled. The advert sees a surfer taking on a giant wave, and was directed by Jonathan Glazer and shot in Hawaii over 9 days.  

The waves eventually turns into white running horses, and this was inspired by a painting from 1893 by Walter Crane known as ‘Neptune’s Horses’. It also features a line from Herman Melville’s work Moby Dick ‘I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream.’

It was a standout advert of the 90s, and even went onto be named as one of the greatest adverts of all time by The Independent in 2009. The inspirational message alongside the striking black and white video makes this advert memorable - and it certainly did the trick for Guinness.


Nicola - Client Services Director

Brand: Honda

Campaign: Honda Cog

Period: 2003

Cost:  £1million for the ad.  £45.8million for the campaign April 02 to December 03

Advertising drivers: Television

Results: Visits to dealerships rose by 200% and 22% of people went on to buy Honda vehicles. 81,858 vehicles were also sold as a result of this campaign, resulting in a huge ROI for Honda. 


“Here's my all time favourite. This launched when I was at the tender age of 20 in the middle of by BA Hons in Advertising and Marketing at Lancaster Uni. I can remember the first time I saw the ad whilst watching the Grand Prix on a Saturday am with my dad. We all stared open mouthed at the telly in awe of this commercial, which was like nothing we'd ever seen before. My mum drove a clapped out 1987 Honda Accord at the time (the one where the headlights rose out of the bonnet) We all loved it a little bit more after that day…”

The Honda Cog advert is one of the most innovative pieces of advertising during the last 20 years. The advert was designed to be captured within one, single take and contains no special effects. It also features around 85 parts of a Honda vehicle, and with this the brand created a chain reaction leading to a shot of the car being advertised - all of which began with a small cog.

Interestingly, the full-length campaign was only aired 10 times, and after that it was cut down to around 20-30 second edits for the rest of the campaign.

The advert was an instant hit and went viral, with thousands of customers downloading the ad direct from the Honda website and sharing it with others. The brand even went as far to release a DVD that enclosed the making of the advert, which was given out for free with The Guardian, Top Gear and GQ.

As well as being visually striking, the advert also had a special feature that allowed consumers to press the red button on Sky and view the advert in full - a step that was revolutionary at that time.

The results speak for themselves and with an increase in Honda purchases, and annual sales rising to £81,850, the brand nailed the Honda Cog campaign.


Mahesh - Account Manager

Brand: Nike  

Campaign: Fate - Leave Nothing

Period: 2008

Cost: Unknown

Advertising drivers: Television

Results: Unknown

“I love the theatre and spectacle of American sport and think this ad encapsulates it all in one minute. “

Nike launched a range of adverts in 2008, but the Fate Leave Nothing ad campaign is one of the most popular. Directed by respected director David Fincher, the ad focuses on the sport American Football. It follows some of the most popular pro players of the time including LaDainian Tomlinson from the San Diego Chargers and Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The advert takes us on a journey through their past as we discover how they first got into the sport, and how both players managed to achieve their impressive pro-status.

It was a motivational advert that no doubt inspired a generation who, whether interested in sports or not, were pushed to give their all in whatever passion they pursued.

The advert still has the same effect today as it did when it was first released, and since then it has earnt itself a spot in many online lists for one of the greatest advertising campaigns of its time.


Emma - Creative Designer

Brand: Sony

Campaign: Sony Balls

Period: 2005

Cost: 250,000 bouncy balls

Advertising drivers: Television, Web/Digital

Results: 2 million people visited the campaign website, the TV ad had 1.8 million views online and it was also downloaded 40,000 times. - Campaign Live


“Visually beautiful, complimented with a fab song by Jose Gonzalez.”

A standout advert from back in 2005, the Sony Balls Campaign first took to our screens during a football match between Manchester United and Chelsea.

According to D&AD, television adverts made up the majority of Sony’s electronic business, and therefore the advert needed to be something stand out, something visually compelling and memorable.

There was an emphasis on the range of colours Sony had with their products, so they knew that colour needed to be a feature of their ad campaign. With this in mind, they decided to let loose 250,000 bouncy balls in San Francisco.

The brand were approached with a script that simply said “We go to San Francisco and let a million brightly coloured balls loose down the steep hills of the city. Title: Colour Like No Other”. And they were immediately intrigued.

They sourced the balls by simply buying as many as they could get their hands on in the US, and they created 12 cannons that fired the balls into the air. The camera crew were kitted out with riot shields and body armour to protect them from the force of the balls, and afterwards they were given to local children who had watched the ad be filmed.

The results, including 2 million site visits, matched alongside the wonderful song from Jose Gonzalez, has cemented itself as one of the greatest adverts of all time.


Georgia - Lead Content Writer

Brand: McVitie’s  

Campaign: The Sweeet Kittens  

Period: 2014-2017

Cost: £12 million

Advertising drivers: TV, cinema, multimedia (app), social media

Results: Pushed popularity of brand from number 18 to number 6 in an independent consumer survey. Grew United Biscuits sales, generated buzz around the baked good sector and also delivered a great return on marketing investment.

“I really love the McVities ads where the animals come out of the biscuit wrappers (the new one for 2017 with seals bursting from a McVitie’s biscuit bag and doing tricks is extra cute). I think they’re great because it has been scientifically proven that looking at cute animals makes us happy, and McVitie's are passing that effect onto their chocolate digestives too.  It’s extra special because someone has clearly thought about how it will affect the minds of their audience!”

First launched in 2014 as part of the Sweeet campaign, the ad from McVitie’s first featured cute kittens popping out of the top of one of their biscuit wrappers.

It was a cute, heart-warming advert that captured the heart of the nation - so much so that McVitie’s relaunched the campaign in 2016. The brand even took it a step further and introduced an app earlier last year that allowed people to play with their own virtual kitten on their mobile devices.

The campaign’s aim was to reach a younger audience than their biscuits were previously targeting, and it was directed by Owen Trevor. The main aim of the advert, apart from attracting a new audience, was to show that eating the brand’s biscuits will leave you feeling ‘comforted.

The adverts were written by Jonathan Marlow and were overseen by the agency Grey London. They also feature retro TV show theme tunes to increase the feel-good factor even further. After proving popular, more animals were added to the adverts including puppies, micro pigs and seals.


Eleanor Hirst - Digital Marketing Executive

Brand: National Lottery Fund

Campaign: This Girl Can

Period: 2015-2017

Cost: £10 million

Advertising drivers: TV, cinema, digital.

Results: Encouraged 1.6 million women to exercise. 37 million views of the 90-second ad on Facebook and Youtube.

“I love this advert because it sends such a strong, positive message to women for such an important subject. This campaign actually motivated me to start regularly exercising and to try new sports and I wouldn’t have joined the clubs I’m part of without it! The new advert for 2017 is also narrated by writer Maya Angelou who reads out one of her poems - educational AND inspirational.”

The This Girl Can campaign was created by the National Lottery Fund after research showed that two million fewer women aged between 14-40 exercised regularly when compared to men of the same age.

The campaign’s main aim was to encourage women to be less embarrassed about their bodies and pursue active hobbies for the good of their health - a subject that was researched heavily by Jennie Price of Sports England before the ad campaign was created, the main of which was to ensure it appealed to the audience in the right way.

The advert focuses on women of all shapes, sizes and varying ages - and it’s this that made it so effective. This Girl Can first launched on the 1st of January 2015 and is still going strong to this day - and it's a longevity that foretells how much success this campaign has achieved so far. 

Over £10 million pounds has been pushed into This Girl Can, a figure that has no doubt risen for 2017 since the new adverts have been released. However, the empowering campaign has proven its worth by encouraging more than 1.6 million women to get out there and work up a sweat. The exercise gender gap has also started to become narrower and has gone from 1.78 million to 1.73 million.


Pixel8 and Your Next Marketing Campaign

An effective marketing campaign as the ability to positively influence the revenue of your company and improve business-consumer relations. Here at Pixel8, we love working on campaigns that generate buzz around our clients, and we know what it takes to get the name of your brand in front of the right audience.

To find out more, get in touch today on 0161 228 6489.

Like this? Why not take a look at the blogs below:

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Pixel8 Celebrate Digital Marketing Success with alongside Eastlands Trust

Pixel8 team up with Hilton Hotels and launch award-nominated campaign.

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